11/9/2018 8:49:56 PM

Garcia retains Nedbank lead despite putting woes

Garcia retains Nedbank lead despite putting woes

Sun City, South Africa: Spaniard Sergio Garcia three-putted three times, but retained the lead at the halfway stage of the Nedbank Golf Challenge in Sun City Friday after shooting a one-under-par 71 in the second round.

Star attraction Rory McIlroy from Northern Ireland could manage only a 71 at the Gary Player Country Club in northwestern South Africa, leaving him eight shots adrift of the 2017 Masters champion.

Garcia led by four strokes at the start of the day, but that advantage was cut to just one as South African Louis Oosthuizen fired a second-round 67 to climb to eight-under overall.

Garcia began with successive birdies, and picked up further shots on the par-four sixth, the par-five ninth and par-five 14th, but missed a short putt for par on the fifth, three-putted the 13th for a bogey and then dropped another shot on the 18th hole as his second putt horseshoed back at him.

"I felt I played nicely today, but I would love a few of those putts to go in tomorrow. It's not ideal to see three-putts, but some of the pins were almost impossible to get to and when you leave yourself 20 or 25 feet putting over hills then it is going to happen sometimes.

"Shooting 68 or 69 today would have been great, but unfortunately that didn't work out, but you have to be extremely precise on this course," said Garcia.

"There are still two days to go and I am leading, so I am still in a great spot. I would certainly have taken that on Thursday morning."

Quick start 

Oosthuizen, who began the day five behind Garcia, made the quick start he needed with three birdies in the first four holes.

But he was once again unable to safely negotiate the par-four eighth, following his first-round bogey with a double bogey Friday.

Oosthuizen recovered, though, with a superb approach to the 10th setting up an eagle, followed by back-to-back birdies on 14 and 15.

"Over the years eight has always been a tough tee shot on the eye for me, I only see a three-iron there and it was a bit into the breeze today.

"So I tried a bit too much and pushed it to the right. I still could have got away with a bogey, but both my caddie and I completely misread the putt."

Defending champion Branden Grace of South Africa shot a 71 to trail Garcia by six strokes.

McIlroy, ranked sixth in the world, said: "I need to tidy up my game off the tee. If you do that you can give yourself a lot of chances around here, but you need to get the ball in the fairway first.

"It was good the first few holes today, but I was very scrappy on the way in.

"I have not been putting myself in positions off the tee to give myself chances with irons to get close enough to have a good look at birdies," he said.

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